Sometimes enough is not enough. When the All Boards Chairs (ABC) committee met this week, they could have been signing a joint employment agreement on the Superintendent
Housatonic Valley Regional High School is a wonderful small high school in the northwest corner of Connecticut. It boasts a broad choice of curriculum and extensive after-class activities. It is supported by excellent elementary schools in the six towns of Region 1. And the Region 1 Board of Education tends to focus on the excellent students in the school who go to top universities. They tend to focus on the success of small groups like the Envirothon and Robotics teams. Even in their meetings, they focus on the success of the sports teams. The overall performance in the academic core of English, math and science goes largely unnoticed.
The retiring foreign language teacher at Kent Center School, Linda Miller, is returning to teach next year. She was one of three teachers hired at the regular meeting of the Kent Board of Education. The Board also heard a presentation from an energy company to replace inefficient light bulbs in the school; they approved the project with no net cost to the budget. Chairman Paul Cortese said that the roof project for the summer months was proceeding to the bid stage. Board member Allan Priaulx reported that the wellness committee was asking Principal Florence Budge to provide at least 20 minutes of recess throughout all grades. And the Board finally approved a policy on public comment.
On Monday, the Region 1 Board of Education held their regular monthly meeting with many business actions. They approved the hiring of four professionals to fill jobs opened by retirement. They approved a request by Principal Jose Martinez for a nominal fee for the student computers. They approved the replacement of lighting fixtures at the high school by Eversource. They approved a new Algebra textbook. They approved three more students from Massachusetts for the Ag-Ed program. Chairman Andrea Downs appointed three members for a Personnel Committee as part of their long term planning process. And, they alluded to but refused to discuss a detailed threat of legal action from the Town of Canaan (Falls Village) over the joint employment agreement of the Superintendent of Schools.
This week, the All Boards Chairs (ABC) committee met for its regular meeting. Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain reported on her research into regionalization in other school districts. Chairman Electra Tortorella reported that the joint agreement on the employment of the Superintendent will be delayed once again while the two attorneys resolve differences. Then the committee went into executive session to evaluate the Superintendent and discuss the next contract.
Chamberlain gave the committee several documents on regionalization in three school districts:
This week, the All Boards Chairs (ABC) committee held a special meeting to discuss shared services. They considered their two choices: a shared services agreement between all seven Boards of Education or rewriting the policies of each Board. They immediately went off on a tangent to discuss the governance as specified by one of the enabling acts of Region 1. They then reached a tenuous consensus to have Region attorney Gary Brochu review changes to the policies (7000 series) while recommending whether they should have an agreement or policies. The bulk of the discussion centered on power; Region 1 Chairman Andrea Downs wanted to keep control of the central office budget and its employees other than the Superintendent of Schools.
Special Education of students is a very difficult process to manage. Every Board of Education feels inadequate to the task because of their limited knowledge on the subject. In Region 1, with seven schools, the Region 1 Board of Education always lacks enough information to reach an optimal solution. Is the special education process of identification stable? Is the number of special education students too high or too low? Is the cost commensurate with the task? Is the increase in cost sustainable? How does outplacement of students affect cost? Does the percentage of special education students in Housatonic Valley Regional High School increase after 30% of the middle school students leave for private school? How much does the legal process weigh into special education decisions? Most important, how does a Board of Education set metrics to prevent unnecessary cost while maintaining necessary help?
An interesting discussion broke out at the Kent Board of Education meeting this week. The Board has been working on a new policy on public comment and participation. They have gone through many revisions of the policy, nitpicking at the ambiguous meanings of the English language along the way. Now, near the end, two Board members complained that overall tone of the policy was not welcoming to the public. In rebuttal, Chairman Paul Cortese said that some form of policy was necessary in order to comply with the Freedom of Information restrictions. They rearranged the sections and will continue discussions next month.
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